Founders of Mo. Christian Reform School Charged with Abuse After Daughter's Viral TikTok Videos
The daughter of parents now charged in the alleged sex abuse of girls at a religious boarding school in Missouri says it took making TikTok videos for investigators to finally respond to her calls for help.
The couple, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, who formerly owned and ran the now-defunct Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School in Cedar County, were charged Wednesday with a combined 102 felonies that allege incidents of statutory rape, sodomy and child molestation among other crimes, says Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
"As the father of two young girls, it is simply unthinkable that this type of abuse could be perpetrated against those who are so vulnerable, as well as on families of the victims," Schmitt said at a news conference, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The details laid out in the charges against the couple, he said, are "not for the faint of heart."
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Sixteen alleged victims from around the country have come forward so far, and most were minors when the alleged incidents occurred, Schmitt said.
In one instance, Boyd Householder allegedly "forced a victim to drink at least 220 ounces of water and then run a mile until she vomited, and then forced her to run again," states a news release from the AG's office. In another, he allegedly "instructed several victims on the best way to kill yourself by cutting your wrists upwards, not across."
The claims shared by the attorney general's office echoed allegations of harassment that the suspects' daughter, Amanda Householder, says she witnessed and experienced firsthand for years.
"If my dad thought a girl was vain or thought she was pretty he would cut her hair off, just to humiliate her," Householder told Kansas City TV station FOX 4.
"When I was young, I would reach out to people saying this is how my parents are treating me and I was never heard," she said. "I would always get punished more for it because it would get back to my parents that I was speaking out."
She eventually began posting TikTok videos to draw wider attention to her claims, she said.
Physical abuse described by former students allege that Boyd and Stephanie Householder applied "restraints that involved Boyd Householder pushing his knee into the backs of several victims, applying pressure to certain pressure points, handcuffing or restraining victims' hands and feet, and forcing victims to hold the 'push-up position,'" said the attorney general's office.
Alleged incidents that warranted charges also included Boyd Householder allegedly "slamming victims' heads or bodies against walls, slapping or hitting victims with his hands or belt or other instrument, shoving a victim's face into horse manure, pouring hot sauce down a victim's throat, and other instances of physical abuse."
"On one occasion, while restrained, the victim said the defendant put a dirty sock in her mouth and sprayed her face with a hose," Schmitt told reporters. "The water went up her nose and her mouth, making it hard to breathe."
The 79 charges filed against Boyd Householder include six counts of second-degree statutory rape, seven counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, six counts of sexual contact with a student, one count of second-degree child molestation, 56 counts of abuse or neglect of a child, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Stephanie Householder was charged with 22 felonies, including 12 counts of abuse or neglect of a child, and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
It was not immediately clear if the couple had obtained legal counsel to answer the charges.
Authorities removed about two dozen students from the school in August, after which the couple closed it down, reports the Post-Dispatch.
State lawmakers have since begun considering legislation to make religious boarding schools subject to state oversight, reports FOX 4.
Other potential victims, or those with knowledge of alleged abuse at Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, are asked to call the attorney general's office at 573-751-0309.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.